More Guamanians abusing public assistance programs - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

More Guamanians abusing public assistance programs

Posted: Updated:

On Guam there are nearly 15,000 households under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, accounting for over 47,000 people. But the Department of Public Health continues to encounter dozens of cases of abuse in the program. Just this week alone, nearly three dozen people were disqualified from SNAP and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program after they were found to have intentionally violated the program rules.

"For one reason or another, it could be income, not reporting on time, it could also be households moving in and out, so because it makes real big difference for eligibility purposes, whether you have five in the household or four," said Francis Damian, an investigation and recoupment supervisor for Public Health's Bureau of Management Support. He says trafficking or crediting nonfood items with their SNAP EBT cards is also a common disqualification.

"It's unfortunate," he added. "There's always going to be the 1% of the total community that will for one reason or another start to abuse or misuse the program assistance, so that's unfortunate."

In the last four quarters, there have been about 140 cases of disqualification. A first time noncompliance offense results in a disqualification of 12 months, a second offense is two years and a third is banned for life whether on Guam or anywhere across the nation. And with millions of dollars being disbursed for the SNAP program, Damian says efforts need to be taken to crack down on the abuse.

For example, some states ban certain food item from being purchased to other proposals about drug testing, an effort that was even discussed a few years ago here on Guam. Damian agrees to an extent, telling KUAM News, "It's almost like a random drug testing: it's doesn't necessarily have to be 100%, but it would create a more awareness not to do that. If we get a call that says this individual should be investigated for drugs, then we need to take it upon ourselves to verify some of that."

As for Legislative Committee on Health chair Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., he says the best way to crack down on the abuse is to get down to the root of the problem. "I'm not really looking at something that's punitive or punishes people, because it's really survival mode to these people, because what happens when you do drug test someone and they test positive, you take them off the rolls and it becomes a worst situation for them," he said. "If we're going to do that we have to make sure we have a good program that treats people with drug problems. I think it goes back to making sure we have alternatives for them."

In the meantime, Public Health's best way of monitoring the program aside from the reporting requirements is through complaints received by the community. You can report fraud and abuse by calling the KEHA Hotline at 735-7353.

  • NEWS HEADLINESMore>>

  • Police trying to find parents of 4-year-old girl found in Yigo

    Police trying to find parents of 4-year-old girl found in Yigo

    The Guam Police Department is asking for the public’s help to find the parents of a four-year-old girl that was found at around 4:30 Wednesday afternoon at FB Leon Guerrero Middle School by staff. The child is described as possibly 4-years-old and pMore >>
    The Guam Police Department is asking for the public’s help to find the parents of a four-year-old girl that was found at around 4:30 Wednesday afternoon at FB Leon Guerrero Middle School by staff. The child is described as possibly 4-years-old and pMore >>
  • President condemns Puerto Rico trip, Guam delegate unfazed

    President condemns Puerto Rico trip, Guam delegate unfazed

    Courtesy: FacebookCourtesy: Facebook
    Courtesy: FacebookCourtesy: Facebook
    Congressman Michael San Nicolas is brushing off criticism of his weekend trip to Puerto Rico with other congressional democrats. Some three dozen of them were flown by private jet to join more than 100 lobbyists on the visit. It was sponsored by Bold Pac,More >>
    Congressman Michael San Nicolas is brushing off criticism of his weekend trip to Puerto Rico with other congressional democrats. Some three dozen of them were flown by private jet to join more than 100 lobbyists on the visit. It was sponsored by Bold Pac,More >>
  • Joe Arnett elected chairman for Guam Chamber of Commerce

    Joe Arnett elected chairman for Guam Chamber of Commerce

    The Chamber of Commerce has elected its new board officers for 2019. Joe Arnett of Deloitte and Touche was voted Chairman, Christine Baleto of Pacific Froots is the Vice-Chair, and Mark Tokito of the Bank of Hawaii was re-elected secretary. Rounding out tMore >>
    The Chamber of Commerce has elected its new board officers for 2019. Joe Arnett of Deloitte and Touche was voted Chairman, Christine Baleto of Pacific Froots is the Vice-Chair, and Mark Tokito of the Bank of Hawaii was re-elected secretary. Rounding out tMore >>
Powered by Frankly